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Diabetes Health

Watch Out!

Brush up on what’s new in the market with the latest technology that helps improve your overall fitness. The Apple Watch is out and Dr AG Unnikrishnan, after using it for a month, recounts the pros and cons of the world’s latest smart-watch.

Wait and Watch

The Apple Watch was worth the wait. Actually, the watch has not yet been released in India, but I managed to find a pre-ordered version to lay my hands on or to be precise, to wrap around my wrist.

Like all Apple products, the watch interface is beautiful to look at. To set it up is easy and quite intuitive. The Apple Watch works as an extension screen to the iPhone. One can make or receive calls as well as text messages. The battery charge lasts from morning to night. Listening to music or receiving emails is easy – but I’m hardly an expert on these matters and it’s the fitness use that I shall focus on.

Watch your fitness

It is clear that Apple wants to be your fitness partner. A clear focus of the watch is your health. Indeed the back of the watch, which functions as a charge point when placed on a coin-like flat charging button, has other functions too. An infra-red beam (actually looks greenish to my eyes) monitors the users pulse rate and it is pretty good at it. I found my own heart rate shooting beyond 100 when I exercised with it.

There are two native Apps on the watch that are focused on fitness- in my own words, one is the activity tracker and the other is the exercise planner.

    • Activity tracker

The activity tracker app has a beautiful interface. A red-pink line encircles itself to show you how many hours you have been moving. A light, but bright green line worms around in a circle, compiling your daily exercise time. And a beautiful light-turquoise blue band tells you how long you have been standing. Some of these interfaces/their representations on the iPhone screen have been depicted in the pictures in this article. Beautiful bar graphs illustrate your daily activity chart telling you how long you have been moving and at what time.

    • Exercise planner

The exercise planner app is a delightful little “glance” on your watch face, and enables you to plan exercise, set goals based on distance, time or calories. If you just like to leave it open that is, if you want to exercise without any target in mind, there is an open option for that too. Different types of exercise planning exist, e.g. indoor walk, outdoor walk, stair stepper, among others. These are all surprisingly accurate. I found that when I used the stair stepper option and climbed the stairs, the calories expended were more than when I did the outdoor walk, by choosing the outdoor walk option, despite the same amount of time taken for both activities.

A pat-watch on the back

I have tried other fitness bands and smart watches. One difference that I noted is the gentle, encouraging language used by the Apple Watch. It gently goads you to stand up. It tells you that you have achieved most of your day’s fitness target that you had set for yourself and then implores you to push yourself to complete the target. And how exactly does it do that? Well it’s touching and quite literally so. It gives you a gentle prod, somewhat vibration-like in nature: called a haptic feedback or even as digital touch- so gentle that you barely feel it. But the touch is not so gentle that you would miss the prod- no you would have to perceive it as a friendly pat telling or alerting you to, for instance, the fact that you are on track to reach your fitness targets.

And when you have reached a personal milestone- the Apple Watch surprises you by giving you an award! The awards are beautifully designed structures that please one’s eye and reflect on the iPhone screen. I received a golden shield as an award (see photo)

A double edged sword

Speaking of shields, the Apple Watch, like any piece of technology, is a double edged sword. I have not used the Samsung Galaxy Gear. I have, of course used the Pebble Watch which I had reviewed in an earlier issue of Diabetes Health. While the Apple Watch is superior, in many ways to earlier smart watches it is still, I insist, a double edged sword.

Why? Simply because like any gadget it can be put to either right or wrong use. For example, as discussed above, it is simply great as a fitness tracker and exercise planner. On the other hand, it is a great tool for couch potatoes who can make calls, send messages and use it as a remote for controlling room lights and temperatures. Instead of walking to work, one may even be tempted to try out the Uber App on the watch which would bring a taxi to your door within a few minutes! Therefore, remember, if you buy it, use it wisely.

Things to come

A new term that is increasingly applied to personal technology, is called “the Internet of things”. This term suggests that Internet technology will soon be personal, more aware of you like never before, knowing your likes, dislikes, location and even, as in the case of the Apple Watch, your heartbeat.

In addition, while browsing the Internet, I found hushed, whispering, write-ups that alluded to a hidden oxygen sensor at the back of the Apple Watch – capable of measuring our blood oxygen saturation. A detailed examination of the entire watch interface by a techno-novice like me, of course, could discern no evidence of this facility lurking beneath. However, in the settings, I could read that the Apple Watch could link to Bluetooth-based health devices. Does this suggest that the Apple Watch could link to a pulse oximeter that measures oxygen in blood, or a blood pressure machine or a glucometer? I certainly think so. Interestingly, there are reports that one of the world’s finest real time glucose level-sensing machine, the Dexcom, could be linked to the Apple Watch, meaning that this watch could well display changing blood glucose in real time! Apple has already said that new features are coming in its software update, called watchOS2, expected to roll out soon in the coming months.

The night watch man

I dream of a future where we exist, not as discrete human beings, but as flexible, collaborative beings connected to each other and to our surroundings via the Internet using technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Waking up from this artificial dream, I have suddenly realized that night has fallen!

And therein lies a lesson for life. At the risk of sermonizing, let me state something clearly. By being engrossed in technology and the internet, let us not suddenly realize that the day has passed and that we have slipped into the darkness. There are things that a smart watch can do at present, and things it cannot. For instance, it cannot smell a rose or enjoy scenery. The digital touch of the watch cannot replace the hug from your baby or the food prepared by your mother.

Let us keep a line for technology and keep human warmth and relationship beyond that line.

As I said, night has fallen, and the night watchman in me is now taking off the Apple Watch, and going to sleep. And I intend to dream of a land of such magnificence that no technology can conceive. Not even there Apple Watch.

Good Night! Till we meet again!

Dr AG Unnikrishnan is the CEO and Endocrinologist at Chellaram Diabetes Institute and Hospital, Pune.

Disclaimer: The editorial team of Diabetes Health have no conflicts of interests to disclose. They do not endorse, support or recommend any particular product or device. Readers are requested to check with their doctors before using any application or device.

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